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Woman Made Gallery Won’t Let Even Death Threats Stop Them

Of the many organizations that have taken great strides to ensure the gender equality, one of the most noteworthy would have to be Chicago’s oldest feminist art gallery, Woman Made Gallery (WMG).

WMG is a Chicago-based art gallery that is centered around celebrating women in art. According to their official website, they have been ensuring the “equal placement of women’s art in the world” since 1992.

The nonprofit organization, which is the brainchild of Kelly Hensen and Beate Minkovski in 1992, has grown into a renowned art gallery that hosts annual international exhibitions.

On the gallery’s official website, it states that the goal of the gallery is “to cultivate, promote and support the work of female-identified artists by providing exhibition opportunities, professional development, and public programs that invite discussion about what feminism means today.”

And these goals do not exclude men. The gallery’s website makes it clear that WMG “welcomes the participation of people of all gender expressions and orientations as artists and program participants, members and supporters.” It’s first all-male exhibit was opened in the late September of 1993, and was themed around men defining “the feminine.”

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, co-founder Minkovski said, “our intention was to foster understanding between the sexes, so each can learn something, not to ridicule either women or men.”

In addition to showing the art of women artists from around the world, WMG has also gone to great lengths to partner and host education programs, as well as community outreach programs that promote equal representation for women in art. According to their website, over 7,500 women artists have shown their works at WMG since 1992.

WMG is also known for tackling difficult issues. These topics are important to the feminist community, and should be discussed, regardless of if they make people uncomfortable or offended, because they are often ignored.

One of the most controversial exhibitions WMG held was titled Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary How Does Your Image Grow, and opened in 1996. The exhibit gained a lot of controversial attention, especially from leaders of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. It led to protest, death threats and, according to an article from the Chicago Tribune, “the need to hire a security guard.”

Reportedly, many of WGM’s galleries deal with emotional topics, including incest and rape. “The art can’t help but provoke a mixed response,” Minkovski said. “A couple of the pieces were considered offensive. We got phone calls saying it was blasphemy. And we got death threats. We try not to be in your face all the time. But our shows are always political.”

Each curated gallery is meant to make members, artists, viewers, and guests think. It was meant to make people understand what feminism is, and what it means in today’s world.

Diana Strzalka who reported on the exhibit for the Chicago Tribune, said, “their art included representations of the multiple roles of women, prejudices, genital mutilation and other issues. One piece compared the odds of rape to a game of chance, and another artist depicted the changing role of women with a painting of an old woman sitting on a rocking chair inside a cage.”

In its goal to provide “opportunities, awareness, and advocacy to women artists” in the name of feminism, WMG hasn’t stopped growing since it first opened its’ doors in 1992.  

WMG’s next exhibition, the 20th International Open,” is scheduled to show from September 22nd to October 20th, and it will be the first exhibition at their new Chicago location in the Pilsen neighborhood. The exhibition’s opening reception is scheduled for Friday, September 22nd from 6 to 8 PM.  All events are free and open to the public.

Featured Image by Reg Natarajan on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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